Friday, October 02, 2015

Saving money: Scholastic Book Club vs. Amazon

As a kid, I remember bringing home those Scholastic Book Club flyers and asking my parents to buy me some books.  I was an avid reader, even then, and have always tried my best to foster a love of reading (and thus learning) in both of my kids.  I love my Amazon Prime account because I can order books and get them within 2 days.  But I also really love a bargain.

My kids are book keepers -- that is, they don't mind borrowing from the library, but there are some series that they love so much that they want to own them.  Another aspect is that our library system sometimes has gaps in series and it's just easier to buy them as a boxed set once you realize that you're going to have to buy a few they don't have anyway.

In perusing the four (yes, four) Scholastic flyers my son brought home, I noticed some bargains.  I will also note, I also saw some titles that I knew were cheaper on Amazon outright, and even a tad cheaper in a Kindle book format.  So it does pay to compare prices on books.

Spirit Animals books:  Scholastic has 5 titles in paper back exclusives (Spirit Animals 1-5) at just $4 each, bought as a 5 paperback exclusive.   Hardcover on Amazon makes them about $10 each, give or take, but they ship free on Prime or you'll need to meet the minimum for Super Saver Shipping.  Buying these books through Scholastic in paperback saves you more than half off hard cover price.

Percy Jackson & Olympians/Lost Heroes:  Scholastic has all five books in paperback for $4 each, bought as a package costing $20 for all five.   Amazon has all five books in a box set for $21.08.  Only a dollar savings there, but if you have Prime, you'll get them super fast.  Lost Heroes are also book 1-4 for $5 each via the $20 pack in Scholastic's TAB, and Amazon has a boxed set of 1-3 for $17.72.  That would make Scholastic's deal a bit better price per book, aside from Amazon's boxed set being short #4.

Maze Runner books:  Maze Runner is popular among teens/tweens right now since the series is being made into movies.  Amazon has a set of all four Maze Runner books for $23.98 and  Scholastic had them in their TAB flyer for $9 each, so a significant savings if you bought them on Amazon.

Some considerations....

Amazon Prime will get you books faster than placing an order via your child's teacher.  Chances are, you aren't ordering a surprise gift for them via the book club.   However, you aren't paying shipping either.  If your child's teacher provides you with their Classroom ID code to use to order online, you'll still get the books you buy sent to their classroom (no shipping).  Ordering with your teacher's classroom code also means that your child's teacher receives credit for your order, which translates into free books for your child's classroom.  If you order off the regular Scholastic website, you may need to make a minimum purchase to receive free shipping, just as you would for Amazon if you were not a member of Prime.

Ordering books through Scholastic sometimes means little extras.  For instance, this month if you order via a flyer, your child will receive a Pokemon bookmark free.  Some books/booksets also come with extra trinkety type items (a necklace or keychain, for instance).  Amazon rarely does this, to my knowledge.

Are you an auntie or a grandma?  If you have the Classroom ID, you, too, can order online and have the books sent to your little one's classroom.  Do you have a teacher friend?  He/She may be willing to let you order gifts for your little munchkins via their account.  Also be aware that Scholastic holds book fairs at schools and you can arrange to shop there as well. 

Unplug Pop Connect Bag from Jolly Time -- just 3 UPCs/POPs

Does your family always have their paws on their phones during dinner or family movie night?  Keep your screen clean and enjoy some special time together by putting your phones in an Unplug Pop Connect Bag!

The size is 5" x 7" and holds 4 phones, and it can be yours by printing this form and sending it along with 3 UPCs/POPs.

Thursday, October 01, 2015

Handmade presents/gifts from Etsy: The Crooked Yarn

One of my friends supplements her income by selling some of her handmade items on Etsy.  Her Etsy store is The Crooked Yarn, so be sure to check it out!  Right now, she has some handmade baby blankets and dish cloths, as well as some mighty fine looking doilies.  She also takes requests, so make sure you check out her solds, too!  Click on where it says "161 sales", as that's the current tally of her sales through Etsy.  You'll be able to view past items.  Some items are open to offers so that she can clear her inventory and get hooking on another project.

A few of her items currently available.  Blanket great for boy or a girl baby!

Handmade items are a unique gift, as they are never all exactly the same.  As someone who crochets and knits myself, I can attest that a lot of work goes into a finished product.  If you've seen a meme around Facebook that lays out how much yarn costs for a blanket and the time expended, I think you'll agree that her prices are quite fair and reasonable.  Want different colors, ask her for a custom order. 

Great for gift baskets of handcrafted soaps or personal care items.
What is your most favorite item in her store?  Leave me a comment below!  I always love looking at baby blankets.  I keep praying for another family member to have a baby so I can make them a blanket and get to play with colors and design elements.   If you stop by Marie Anne's store, let her know I said hi!

Disclosure:  I'm sharing images and information about my friend's Etsy store.  She didn't pay me to do so!  I do so freely of my own will.

Estate planning and drafting a will: the big bummer! Or not....

It may surprise you that once upon a time, in a galaxy at least 10 years in the past, I used to work for an attorney who did estate planning and drafted wills for his clients.  Heck, he even drafted a draft will for myself and my husband, one we never signed.  I know, it's a case of the cobbler's kids having no shoes.  Ten years later.... well, still don't have one.

What happened?  While we were willing then to think about the big What If's that can keep you up at night, one spouse losing the other, what if we both died, who would we want to be guardian of our child?  Who in our family would we want to take in our child if the worst happened? 

As it turned out, we were still working on that.  We hadn't settled on a guardian for our child, mainly because of where everyone was in their life.  My hubby's sister, ultra responsible to the core, well, she is exactly that --- a Sister.  With a capital S.  As in a consecrated religious.  A nun (though nuns are cloistered, and so many people actually think that nun is synonymous with being a Sister, but I digress.)  Two of my siblings were as yet unmarried and the other struggled with her own family. 

It was easier to "think about it" for a while.  Then, we moved.  Newsflash:  If you move to a different state, the laws are different.  We would have to start over with a different attorney since we'd slacked.

My anecdote above comes out of an article I read about why more people don't have wills over on Fox Business.  It goes on to say that it's because it's not because it's so depressing to contemplate what happens to your stuff after you die, it's because of a lack of financial know-how!  They aren't exactly teaching high school seniors about these things, but maybe they should, at least to some degree.  I challenge teachers to cover the basics of their state with regard to distribution of personal property if something should happen to them.  The reality is that after high school, you engage in many activities where death comes up.  College loans?  What happens to those if you die before paying them off?  Car loan for your first car?  Who gets your car if you die?  Who do you want to get your car?  Joining the military?  I'm thinking they talk to you at least a little bit since you have to name a beneficiary for a life insurance policy.

So, if you are lacking that financial know-how, what can you do?  Legal Zoom has a list of documents you want to dig up when you are preparing for a meeting.  Much of the info is at least peripherally related to your annual tax return/supporting documents you used to file.  Perhaps much of what you need is even now available online for easy printing.  Go through the mental list of assets including:  bank accounts, IRA/401(k) or other retirement vehicles, homes, other real property, vehicles/boats, jewelry, stock, and insurance (both private and work-related). Does a wealthy relative have you in their own will?  That is also relevant information for your attorney to know.

Then go through your liabilities list, which might look like this: vehicle loans, student loans, mortgage, personal loans, tax bills, and credit card debt.  Gather all of your debt information and remember, your attorney is not there to judge you based on your Discover card balance.  He or she needs an accurate picture of your finances to best evaluate your needs.  Don't hide financial information.

But I'll share some wisdom with you:  my former boss was very adept at going through other people's documents, talking with them about their assets/debts, analyzing their insurance needs, etc.  Your attorney has an idea of typical assets and typical debts and will ask you questions to make sure they have enough information to assist you properly.

It doesn't have to be a mountain when you can make it a mole hill.  Don't let the lack of one or two pieces of information hold you up.  Make that appointment anyway. You likely will not walk out that day with a will --- it's possible, but go in expecting that you'll get a little homework or need to think about things.  And keep yourself on track, if you can.  That means that just as you schedule your next dentist appointment the minute you walk out with your freshly megawatted smile, you should make another appointment with your attorney to finish up the details.  This will make you accountable to yourself and, perhaps, stop you from procrastinating.


Believe it or not, your attorney wants to get you across the finish line!  Did you read that link on Fox Business?  A quarter of folks don't have a will.  Having a will can accomplish many things to put your mind at ease. 

First, if you have minor children or even a special needs child, you can put your wishes in indelible ink and dictate how they will be provided for if you predecease them.

Secondly, any wishes (and include photographs of said objects) for specific bequests can be made, making your intentions clear. 

Thirdly, dying without a will vs. with one can have significant tax complications.  If you're re-married, it can most definitely affect your spouse's quality of life as many states have laws in place that dictate how an estate will be settled absent a will when there was a prior marriage resulting in children.  It may not be settled as you would prefer! 

Finally, your attorney wants to save you money.  He or she really does!  Their advice can be invaluable on how assets should be titled to avoid pesky estate and death taxes.  Their advice can also help ensure for a smooth transition of assets after you're gone.  No one wants to leave a legal mess behind for someone else to clean up.  Make it easier on those left behind by being proactive now.

Remember:  You don't have to have the "know-how" --- just find yourself a competent attorney who concentrates in estate planning, wills, and estates and you'll be in good hands!  Ask around for recommends, look for free seminars local to you where estate planning is a topic, or grab that phone book, old school style.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Keurig Kold Drinkmaker: Make your own name brand soda at home for $350 (plus pods)

I saw some articles in my news feed about the new Keurig Kold, which will make you your favorite name-brand bevvies at home.  I checked it out at the Keurig site. The list price is $369.99, but drops to $349.99 once you add it to your cart.  The pods, four per pack, are also sold on their site at $4.99.  Each pod makes 8 ounces, so it's one expensive Coke, Diet Coke, or Sprite you would be making. 

The machine doesn't rely on Co2 canisters.  I do have a Soda Stream and the tanks were a pain.  Once you are out, you would have to exchange them and, for me, that meant a trip to one of two places in a larger city where I could exchange them. So no reliance on Co2 tanks is a plus. 

The price, frankly, frightens me!  I scrolled through some reviews and found that people liked the taste of the soda.  However, I just don't see myself paying $350 for a machine that provides me with over-priced soda.  8 ounces is the serving size and that's actually less than what you'd get in a 12 ounce can of your favorite soda anyway.  Unless these special pods went on major sale, I just don't see the economic benefit of having the machine vs. catching a soda sale at your local grocery store.

As for me, I would rather see this concept integrated into a state of the art refrigerator. I don't need another counter space hog.  But it would definitely have to be cheaper or the same as buying pop at a store for me to seriously consider having one.

What do you think?  Could you drop $350 on a soda machine? 

Save on iTunes gift cards at Staples

It's time to start tucking away gift cards for holiday gift giving!  Staples has iTunes gift cards on a discount and they will even ship free from  I pick these up every now and then to use for my teen, who'd rather have these than money for allowance.

$100 iTunes is $80, the $50 iTunes is $40, and the $25 one is just $20.

Free sample: Nivea In-Shower Body Lotion

Head over to Nivea and request a free sample of Nivea In-Shower Body Lotion.  The sample is .31 fl oz, so not very big, but still free!  Have you tried this product?  If you have, please share your experience in the comments below.

Sunbutter sample --- Target sample page

You will have to screen in on their survey, but Target is offering a sample of Sunbutter.  This product is geared toward those with peanut allergies. 

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Halloween: Wendy's Halloween $1 coupon books are for sale til Nov. 1

Swing by your local Wendy's to pick up their $1 Halloween coupon books. They went on sale mid-September and will be sold through November 1. Inside: Either 5 or 10 coupons for a free Jr. Frosty. The number of coupons will vary by location. Remember, the proceeds from this annual offering go toward helping foster kids find forever families.Wish there was a Wendy's near me!  If you purchase, please comment and let us know how many were in your booklet.  I am assuming the higher the cost of living, the lower the number of coupons per booklet. 

Cumberland Farm's FREE coffee promo (National Coffee Day)

For those of you who drink java, National Coffee Day is upcoming!  Cumberland Farms' promo is as easy as texting the word FREECOFFEE to 33733.  You'll receive back via text a free coupon good for a free hot or iced coffee, any size!  The free coupon is only good on September 29, National Coffee Day.

Friday October 9 and every Friday in October will also mean a free coffee at Cumberland Farms. This "Free Coffee Friday" is coupon free, all you will need to do is stop by.  There are 600 locations in the North East and in Florida to stop in at, so be sure to get your caffeine fix.